Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Togo

Continued pressures and threats against LTDH members90

On 28 April 2005, whereas the situation in Togo was particularly tense in the aftermath of the presidential election, around 30 militiamen of the Rally of the Togolese People (Rassemblement du peuple togolais – RPT, ruling party) burst into the house of Mr. Adote Ghandi Akwei, president of the Togolese League for Human Rights (Ligue togolaise des droits de l'Homme – LTDH), in order to intimidate and scare him.

The LTDH headquarters were further surrounded by a dozen of heavily armed soldiers on 3 and 4 March 2005, thus preventing the association's staff from entering their office for two days.

At the same time, the LTDH phone lines were disrupted and bugged, whereas members of the Platform of Togolese Civil Society Associations (Collectif des associations de la société civile du Togo), led by LTDH, were impeded from going to work and subjected to serious threats, as were other members of the LTDH local sections in Tsevié, Aneho, Kpalimé, Atakpamé, Sokodé, Wawa, Kpele and Dapaong. Several of these defenders received anonymous phone calls threatening them with death and noticed unidentified individuals prowling around their homes, whereas other activists were threatened with dismissal in the framework of their professional activities. As a result of these pressures, many LTDH members and their families were forced to leave the country or to go into hiding, such as was the case of Mr. Akwei's relatives.

On 13 May 2005, LTDH facilitated a press conference to launch the updated version of its report entitled Terror strategy in Togo (II): a short but bloody reign, which had previously been presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The event, however, was disrupted by Mr. Dominique Begbessou, national RPT youth coordinator, and Mr. Claude Vondony, general secretary of the Togolese Movement for the Defence of Human Rights (Mouvement togolais de défense des droits de l'Homme), a pro-governmental NGO, who burst into the LTDH premises along with fifty militiamen, while a vehicle of the Togolese Armed Forces (Forces armées togolaises – FAT) was on patrol around the association's headquarters. Mr. Begbessou hit Mr. Estri Clumson-Eklu, LTDH vice-president, in the face, and the assailants threatened LTDH members with death before leaving.

Lastly, in June 2005, LTDH and FIDH were subjected to a defamation campaign in La Dépêche newspaper, after an international investigation mission visited several Togolese refugee camps in Benin.91 Considered as a "criminal plot against the Togolese State", this mission allegedly uncovered the "treacherous and subversive scheming of FIDH and its Beninese and Togolese accomplices". The refugees who accepted to testify with the mission delegation were qualified as "fake refugees but genuine storytellers (...) reciting nonsense" in order to collect the financial aid initially allocated to "the real refugees" or to go abroad. LTDH was further described as the "chief criminal", and FIDH delegates as "human rights mercenaries (...) whose hatred towards Lomé is no longer a secret".

The government had previously launched a similar campaign in June 2004 and compared LTDH members to "delinquents" following the publication of the FIDH report on the human rights situation in the country on 8 June 2004.

Attack against Mr. Jean-Baptiste Dzilan92

On 9 October 2005, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, alias Dimas Dzikodo, an independent journalist and member of LTDH and of Journalists for Human Rigths (Journalistes pour les droits de l'Homme – JDHO), was attacked while riding his motorbike on his way home in Gbonvié neighbourhood in Lomé.

A dozen of unidentified and heavily armed individuals followed him in cars and on mopeds before knocking him down of his bike. His aggressors then brutally beat him, sprayed tear-gas right in his face and tried to force him to swallow a "pill" that caused him several burns and a serious mouth parching. Mr. Dzilan had to be rushed to hospital, where he received cares until 21 October 2005.

By the end of 2005, he was still suffering from the after-effects of the poisoning, in particular from hyper-leucocytosis (an increase in the number of white blood cells) as his left kidney was seriously affected by the poison, which could not be identified.

In addition, the complaint for assault and assassination attempt against a person or persons unknown that Mr. Dzilan lodged with the Criminal Investigation Central Department (Direction centrale de la police judiciaire – DCPJ) had still not been transmitted to the examining magistrate by the end of 2005. However, an official enquiry was opened by the Ministry of Information.

Moreover, Mr. Ebem-Ezer Dzilan, Jean-Baptiste's brother and a witness of the attack, was intimidated when he was making his statement at the DCPJ headquarters. Mr. Ebem-Ezer Dzilan was handcuffed and threatened by the superintendent who tried to make him testify that the attack was a mere set-up organised by his brother himself.

On 2 October 2005, a week before the attack against Mr. Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, a group of official agents had spent the night in an unregistered vehicle parked in front of his house. According to Mr. Ebem-Ezer Dzilan, the same car was used on the day of the attack.

Mr. Dzilan had already been subjected to torture and ill-treatments in June 2003, after he had been arrested in a cyber-café in Lomé, where he was scanning pictures of victims of police violence perpetrated during the presidential election on 1 June 2003. He had been detained for four days before being released without charges.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

90. See Annual Report 2004, Press Release, 27 April 2005 and Urgent Appeals TGO 001/0505/ OBS 029 and 029.1.

91. The international fact-finding mission sent to Benin by FIDH, LTDH and the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Benin (Ligue pour la défense des droits de l'Homme au Bénin LDDH) from 17 to 24 June 2005 compiled a register of human rights violations committed in Togo in the post-electoral period from 24 to 28 April 2005, mostly based on testimonies of Togolese refugees in Benin.

92. See Urgent Appeal TGO 002/1005/OBS 090.


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